Amazing Things To Do In Vienna, Austria

Explore the National Library Hall

The biggest Baroque library in the whole of Europe, the State Hall of the National Austrian Library is almost 80m long and 20m high. The dome is magnificently decorated with frescoes by the court painter Daniel Gran, and the shelves contain more than 200,000 volumes, including the comprehensive library of Prince Eugene of Savoy as well as one of the largest collections of Martin Luther’s writings from the Reformation Era.

Ordered by Emperor Karl VI, the former Court Library was created in the first half of the 18th century as a private wing of the Hofburg imperial residence. It was built by Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach according to plans of his father, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach.

Enjoy a Carriage Ride

One thing you will always see in Vienna are horse-drawn carriages taking people across the city. At the end of the 19th century, the carriage business began to boom: more than a thousand fiakers (how the carriages are called by the locals) were on the road in Vienna between 1860 and 1900.

The drivers used to be very famous characters from the city, and also sometimes performed as singers. They were also known for their discretion, and not sharing with anyone what happens inside the carriages. It is safe to say that the experience is very similar to that of the gondolas in Venice.

Pay Respects at the Imperial Crypt

Below the humble church and monastery of the Order of the Capuchin Friars, the mortal remains of the rulers of the Habsburg empire are laid to rest. Walking through the Capuchins’ Crypt takes you through 400 years of Austrian and European history, from the Thirty Years’ War to revolutions and the first ideas for a united Europe.

Each sarcophagi was designed and built individually by the greatest artists of the time, in order to sybolize the life of the royal who has passed away. Signs of transience and faith reflect personal trust in God and humility before their Creator. Today, the mortal remains of 150 Habsburgs rest in the Capuchins’ Crypt.

Visit the Mozart House

Mozart, the famous pianist, moved to Vienna in the early years of his life. There he often performed as a pianist, notably in a competition before the Emperor with Muzio Clementi, a competition that would established him as the finest keyboard player in Vienna. Today a museum, you can visit the house where he lived while he furthered his pianist career in Vienna. 

Wander by the St. Stephen’s Cathedral

In the middle of the 12th century, Vienna was starting to become one of the most important centers of the German civilization. And the four little churches that existed there were no longer sufficient to cover the religious needs of the demanding population.

The current Romanesque and Gothic form of the cathedral, seen today in the Stephansplatz, was largely initiated by Duke Rudolf IV and stands on the ruins of two earlier churches. Today, it is the most important religious building in the city, having been witness to many turns in Habsburg and Austrian history.

See the Monument to the Plague Victims

Vienna, being a trade cross-road during the 17th century, was the perfect place for a large epidemic. During the Great Plague of Vienna, it is believed that between 12.000 and 75.000 people have been killed by the hands of the Bulbonic plague.

Unlike in the previous plague outbreak, when people were simply ostracized and left untouched, this one got taken care by the Church. A religious organization known as the Brotherhood of the Holy Trinity created special plague hospitals to take care of the victims.

The current monument was built in 1693, in the place of a simpler column erected during the plague by the Brotherhood. The figures at the very base represent the triumph of faith over disease, while the middle of the sculpture is dedicated to coats of arms and a praying figure of Emperor Leopold I, and at the very top one can find golden cherubs and other religious figures.

Relax at the Schmetterlinghaus

At the heart of Vienna you will find a unique, tropical oasis of relaxation: the butterfly house. In one of the most beautiful Art Nouveau buildings in the world, you will enter a fantastic world dedicated to the most tender and colorful animals, the butterflies.

The place itself is a massive greenhouse with tropical fauna and flora, emphasis on the 500 butterflies living there, each displaying beautiful and invididual color patterns. It is quite warm and humid so be prepared to sweat a little if you visit it during the winter. Make sure to climb the stairs inside of the giant tree trunk, so you get a view of the entire place from above.

Take a Look at the Roman Ruins

Where Vienna now stands used to be the Roman military camp of Vindobona. The asymmetrical layout of this military camp, which deviates from the classical standardised Roman encampments, is still recognisable in Vienna’s street plan: Graben, Naglergasse, Tiefer Graben, Salzgries, Rabensteig, Rotenturmstraße.

Apart from that, many of the ancient buildings from the camp are still visible throughout the city. The most notable places where you can see these ruins are at the Schönbrunn Palace Park and right on the street in front of the Hofburg Palace.

Pass by the Hungarian House

For those who do not know Elizabeth Báthory, she is believed to be the most successful female murderer of all time, having tortured and killed over 600 virgin women in order to drink and bathe on their blood. All this to fulfill her belief that doing so would keep her eternally young. 

At the turn of the 17th century, the ‘Blood Countess’ lived in this very house at 12 Augustinerstrasse, where she began her ‘career’. The city’s nearby markets served as a hunting ground for her servant Ficzkó, who was instrumental in providing a steady stream of young Viennese maids for the countess.

The place is not really open to the public, so all you can do is take a look at the facade and imagine what sort of thing happened inside this horrific place.

Visit the Vienna State Opera

The Vienna State Opera is a Renaissance Revival building with as many as 1.709 seats, being the first major building on the Vienna Ring Road. It is closely linked to the Vienna Philharmonic, which is an incorporated society of its own, but whose members are recruited from the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera.

The Wiener Staatsoper is one of the busiest opera houses in the world producing around 50 operas per year and 10 ballet productions in more than 350 performances. Make sure you see the building at night, as the lights outside make for an unforgettable sight.

Amazing Things To Do In Budapest, Hungary

Walk Inside The Great Market Hall

The Great Market Hall in Budapest was built in 1897 and is the most beautiful and largest of all Budapest market halls. It is also known as the Central Market not only given its central geographic location within the city, but also due to the sheer volume of trade happening there daily.

There is plenty to see in the three floors of this amazing market, such as little souvenirs, fruits, vegetables, meats, bags, clothing, etc. Apart from those, you can check out the top floor for delicious traditional Hungarian food.

Get Lost At The Panoptikum Labyrinth

It is said that the King Matthias Corvinus marched towards Wallachia to free Vlad Tepes (Dracula) from Turkish captivity. But for some unknown reason, the king who previously intended to save Vlad and even had married one of his family members to him, saw something so terrible that he dragged Vlad to Buda and imprisioned him inside his labyrinth for 10 years.

The labyrinth under the Buda Castle is open until today, now serving as a sort of Museum displaying statues of the monarchs of Hungary. But if you go deep enough, you will find long passages which are entirely without light, and the old prisions where Vlad Tepes was left to rot. Just take into consideration that getting lost here for a couple of hours might be an actual possibility.

Discover The Secrets Of The Gellért Hill

The Gellért Hill gets its name from the legend about the death of St. Gerard. The bishop was assassinated by pagans during a huge rebellion in 1046. He was put in a barrel and rolled down into the deep from the top of the hill, the poor fella.

During the 19th century, after the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, the Habsburgs built there a Citadella due to the stretegic position of the hill refferent to both Buda and Pest. The Hill would also see battle during World War II and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Nowadays, you can find there the famous mineral springs, a gorgeous crystal cave and the lovely church on the hillside.

Take A Break And Relax At The Gellért Baths

The Gellért Baths are located within an Art Noveau building which dates back a whole century. It opened in 1918 offering medicinal water treatments using the same deep underground springs that the Knights of St. John used in the 12th century to feel the invigorating powers of such mineral rich waters.

You can buy a one-time ticket for the baths, and there is no time limit to it, but if you leave the spa, you have to buy another ticket to return. In the same building you have a massage parlour where you can have a relaxing massage before leaving the place, to get you ready to explore more of the city.

Taste The Amazing Hungarian Street Food

Hungarians are specialists at meat dishes, and going to Budapest without trying some kolbász (a spicy sausage made with paprika) or hurka (blood pudding with rice) is definitely a nope.

You can find stands selling delicious traditional Hungarian small and fast dishes throughout the whole city, but my suggestion would be to get it inside the Great Market Hall, which will protect you from both the sun, rain or snow, depending on the season in which you visit the city.

Explore The St. Stephen’s Basilica

During the 18th century, the place where the Basilica now stands was occupied by the Hetz-Theater, where animal fights took place. That was until a wealthy inhabitant named János Zitterbarth decided to build a temporary church there.

What Mr. Zitterbarth did not expect was that the Lipótváros Parish, which formed in the church, would gather over a thousand believers until the beginning of the new century. There believers raised money for the building of a newer and bigger church in homage to St. Stephen, the King of Hungary who became a saint. You can still see his ‘incorruptible’ hand in the reliquary inside the Basilica.

Reflect By The Shoes At The Danube Bank

The horror of fascism is not limited to Germany and Italy. In 1945-45, a militia associated to the Fascist Party of Hungary (also known as Arrow Cross) kidnapped three thousand and five hundred enemies of the party from their homes and workplaces, asked them to remove their shoes before the Danube and shot them into the river, as for it their bodies to be carried away by the flow.

In 2005, film director Can Togay in association with sculptor Gjula Pauer, created a monument to their memory, displaying the shoes left behind by the victims. It serves also as a reminder of the dangers of extremist ideologies.

Stroll Across The Liberty Bridge

The districts of Buda and Pest are connected by many bridges, but few are as elegant as the Liberty Bridge. It is the shortest bridge in Budapest’s center. Initially built as part of the Millennium World Exhibition at the end of the 19th century, the bridge features art nouveau design, mythological sculptures and the country’s coat of arms adorned on its side.

The bridge was inaugurated in the presence of Emperor Franz Joseph; the last silver rivet on the Pest abutment was inserted into the iron structure by the Emperor himself, and the bridge was originally named after him.

Gaze At The Hungarian Parliament Building

Budapest was united from three cities in 1873, namely Buda, Óbuda, and Pest. Seven years later the Diet resolved to establish a new, representative parliament building, expressing the sovereignty of the nation. And then the Parliament Building was born. Construction from the winning plan was started in 1885, and the building was inaugurated on the 1000th anniversary of the country in 1896.

About 100,000 people were involved in construction, during which 40 million bricks, half a million precious stones and 40 kilograms of gold were used. During the People’s Republic of Hungary a red star perched on the top of the dome, but it was removed in 1990 after the fall of communism. Mátyás Szűrös declared the Hungarian Republic from the balcony facing Kossuth Lajos Square on 23 October 1989.

Buy Some Hungarian Souvenirs

When it comes to souvenirs, Budapest is rich in embroideries and the patterns originating from it can be put in virtually anything, from dinner plates to bottle openers. But there is something else that I find really special here.

Chess is a big thing in Budapest, with boards installed even inside the mineral baths. The city has even a famous chess move named after it, the ‘Budapest Gambit’. For that reason, everywhere you look for souvenirs in the city, you will find richly adourned chess tables with hand-crafted pieces, inspired by the most different motifs: traditional Hungarian patterns, medieval knights, etc. Those can be quite expensive, but definitely worth the investment.

Rila Monastery: A Sacred Place In Bulgaria

The holiest place in Bulgaria is a must-see for anyone visiting Sofia, or even Bulgaria as a whole. The Rila Monastery lived and bled together with the Bulgarian people, therefore trying to understand Bulgaria without understanding its religion and customs is in senseless endeavor.

Although the Rila Monastery is particularly beautiful during spring, given the amount of nature surrounding it, visiting it during Christmas is an old tradition among Bulgarians. So I would suggest joining them.

St. Ivan Rilski (St. John of Rila)

Ivan Rilski was already a saint when he was still alive. The holiest man in Bulgarian achieved this through performing unbelievable miracles.

At the age of 25 he became a priest in the St. Dimitrii Monastery, but after accepting the life of a monk he decided to become a hermit and live in solitude and prayer inside a cave at the Rila mountains.

He could not stand to see people suffering, so in an attempt to help them, he managed to perform a series of miracles. This brought him unwanted attention, as he wanted to live the life of a hermit.

The Founding of the Monastery

Believers and supporters from all over Bulgaria set up camps around the cave in which Ivan Rislki lived, seeking blessings from the holy man. This eventually led to the construction of the Rila Monastery.

Ever since its creation, Rila Monastery has been supported by the Bulgarian Tsars. Large donations were made by all the Tsars from the Second Bulgarian Empire up to the Ottoman Invasion.

The Monastery has become a cultural and spiritual center for Bulgarians, as it lived Bulgarian history together with its people through the highs and the lows.

This was proved at most during the times of Ottoman occupation, when the Monastery served as a depository of Bulgarian language and culture in times when those were being publicly destroyed by the foreign invader.

It even served as a hidding spot for revolutionaries from the period of the Bulgarian Liberation, giving shelter to famous revolutionary characters such as Vasil Levski himself.

The Rila Monastery Today

The Monastery today contains a main church, a residential part and a museum. You cannot really visit the residences, as those are reserved for the monks living there, but you should definitely see the church and the museum.

You are not allowed to take pictures inside of the church, so be respectful. There you can purchase candles and light them for both living as well as passed-away relatives. At the very center of the church, there is a major golden device that channels good spiritual energies onto the person standing on the center of it. It is said that if you stand under it, you will receive energy from the heavens themselves.

On the back, outside of the complex, you can follow a path that will take you to a beautiful river, with a beautiful sight of the mountain and forests surrounding it. There will also be some kittens following you through the path, something cute that adds up to the whole experience.

In case you are visiting during the winter, which in my opinion is one of the best times to see the Rila Monastery, you can take a break outside and try some Bulgarian traditional snacks.

My favorite is the Mekitsa, a flatbread made with kneaded dough that is then deep-fried in hot oil. The dough usually consists of flour, water, salt, oil, eggs, yogurt, and a leavening agent. Definitely very warming, ideal for the cold mountain temperature.

Amazing Things To Do In Sofia, Bulgaria

Located by the Vitosha mountain in Bulgaria, at the very heart of the Balkans, Sofia is equally distant from the Black, Adriatic and Aegean Seas. Having a history that goes back millenia, Sofia is the perfect place to explore the history behing Greeks, Thracians, Romans, Bulgars, Ottomans and Communists.

Investigate the Largo

The Largo was built as a piece of Socialist Classicism to host the Party House and other government offices related to the communist regime. Nowadays, the main building hosts the Bulgarian National Assembly, while the lateral buildings contain the Council of Ministers and the President’s Office.

It is one of the most iconic pieces of architecture in town, and marks the very center of the city. It makes for a very good first stop, since there are many things to see around, such as churches, museums, ruins, malls and restaurants.

Watch the Change of Guards

Close to Largo you will find the President’s Office, where routinely the guards who protect the entrance change shifts. The regular change of guards is done every hour, five minutes before the full hour. But if you wish to see the full ceremony, come on the first wednesday of the month at midday, where you will see the official changing of guards, including music, shouting and weapon brandishing.

Explore the Serdica Ruins

Sofia not always had this name. To the Emperors of the Roman and Byzantine empires, it was called Serdica. Emperor Constantine himself used to say Serdica Mea Roma Est (Serdica is my Rome), as he considered shifting the capital of the Byzantine Empire from Constantinople to Serdica.

While the Bulgarian government did escavations to build their new subway system, they surprisingly found the ruins of this ancient Byzantine city. Although the subway was effectively built, the ruins remained exposed to remind locals and foreigners of the might and history of Bulgaria.

Visit the Cyril and Methodius Library

Cyril and Methodius are the two brother theologians and missionaries responsible for the creation of the Cyrillic alphabet. Although they did not come up with the modern version of it, they designed the Glagolitic alphabet, which is a proto-version of the Cyrillic, which was eventually created by their students following their instructions.

This library, created to their homage, contains works important not only to Bulgaria, but to the whole of Slavic nations. An example to that is the 1.700 volume original collection of Slavonic scriptures, dating from the 11th to the 17th century. Apart from that, there is a quite nice bar on the underground of the library.

Pay Respects to Vasil Levsky

Know in Bulgaria as the Apostle of Freedom, Vasil Levsky founded the Internal Revolutionary Organisation, which had the goal of fomenting a nation-wide uprising. He was the engineer behind the creation of the ideology and strategy that would eventually be responsible for freeing the Bulgarian people from Ottoman rule.

In 1872, he was captured by the Turkish police and put on trial. The court rules him guilty of his ‘freedom-seeking’ crimes and sentenced him to death by hanging. The place where he died is where the monument to his memory resides today. Six years after his death, with the help of the Russian Empire, Bulgaria rose against the Ottoman empire, and became the Republic that Levsky dreamt about.

Admire the Ivan Vazov National Theater

Ivan Vazov is another hero to Bulgaria. He turned into novels the plight and suffering of the Bulgarian people under Ottoman rule, contributing for raising the awareness of the nation about their slave-like condition. His most notorious book is called “Under the Yoke”, a Bulgarian idiom for being oppressed.

The National Theater was built by his friend Ivan Shishmanov, and the plays based on Vazov’s works were overseen by Vazov himself. So you can trust the authenticity of anything Bulgarian you watch here. It is definitely one of the best architectural pieces in Sofia.

Pay Respects to Tsar Samuil

One of the most important figures in Bulgarian history, Tsar Samuil was responbible for maintaining the territory of the Bulgarian Empire at its largest extension and defending it from Byzantine invasions.

Tsar Samuil was considered by his enemies an “invincible in power and unsurpassable in strength“, managing to hold the gigantic Byzantine empire out of Bulgarian soil for five decades. He is until today a Bulgarian symbol of indendendence and strength in will.

Train and Perfect Your Aim at Gerena

Weaponry is not strange to Bulgarians. After communist rule, most people in the country were used to handling weapons and it became routine. After the fall of the communist dictatorship, somehow the activity remained as a fun thing to do to pass the time.

The Gerena Shooting Range is the most popular places in town for shooting. It is relatively far away from the city center, but nothing that a cheap taxi drive cannot solve. There you will be personally assisted by a professional shooter on how to pick your weapon, reload and perfect your aim. Just keep in mind that you will need to bring your passport and register for security reasons.

Shop at the Vitosha Boulevard

Vitosha Boulevard is the place in Sofia for shopping and enjoying a nice meal with a view. It has an almost endless assortment of shops and cafes, as well as a beautiful view of the Vitosha mountain on the background.

There are two types of shops in Vitosha Boulevard: branded and outlets. If you go to branded stores, you will sure find some expensive items that are unnafordable for the average Bulgarian, but somehow accessible to foreigners. Outlets will be extremely cheap, even for Bulgarians, so take your pick. Vitosha Boulevar is also one of the best picks for buying rose oil and cosmetics, so you will see a lot of shops related to that throughout the street.

Get Yourself Bulgarian Souvenirs

Sofia has one of the best assortment of souvenirs I have ever seen in any city. I think you can attribute this to the fact that the country has a very strong traditional culture, and people really enjoy propagating it through handicraft. Here you can buy handmade Orthodox icons, Rakija barrels, embroideries, and even Kukeri miniatures (my favorites).

5 Reasons Why ‘Acqua Alta’ Is The Loveliest Bookstore In Venice

About The Acqua Alta Bookstore

Named “the most beautiful bookstore in the whole of Italy“, Libreria Acqua Alta is a must-see when visiting Venice. Why? An intriguing atmosphere with a creative solution for salvaging the books from the threat posed by the constant floodings in Venice: putting the books on gondolas and bathtubs.

Apart from the curious look and atmosphere, Libreria Acqua Alta is the best spot in town to get your hand on local books written in their native language, which will give you genuine insights into Venetian history and culture.

Why The Best Bookstore In Venice

#1 Here You Can Buy Books On A Budget

Along the narrow corridors of Libreria Acqua Alta, you will find many second-hand books that can be as cheap as 3 EUR. Those are not only novels but also treatises on politics, sociology, philosophy, etc. There are no limits to the rabbit-holes that these books will suck you into, opening your field of knowledge to parts of history that are mostly unknown to foreigners.

Note that most of the books here will be written in Italian. But take this as an opportunity to learn the language and dig deeper into the vast culture of Venice and Italy as a whole.

#2 Here You Can Get A Nice Canal View

The fire exit is one of the most famous parts of Libreria Acqua Alta, sou you will always see plenty of people taking pictures here. It gives access to the canal on the back of the bookstore, so you will eventually see boats passing by here.

You will spot it when you see a large green door, with the name of the bookstore written on it with yellow color. If you have the courage, you can climb the ramp and sit on the gondola that is resting outside, but be careful since it is quite unstable.

#3 Here You Can Buy Nice Souvenirs

If you are looking for nice souvenirs and prints to take home, Acqua Alta is the place for you. Together with the Museum shop at the Palazzo Ducale, this is one of my favorite places to get souvenirs in town.

If you are interested in prints, you can get copies of ancient maps of the city and paintings of beautiful sights across Venice done by locals. If you are looking for something more tangible and that you can take with you anywhere, they also have beautiful golden keychains and pins with the Lion of St. Mark. 

#4 Here You Can Take Great Photos

Another one of the most famous parts of the Acqua Alta Bookstore is definitely the staircase on the back. It consists of a pile of books that were irreversibly damaged by the floodings of the city, piled together to give access to the view of the canal on the back of the bookstore.

You cannot underestimate how famous this place is. Throughout the whole year, this place with be filled with tourists taking pictures on the top of the staircase. If you wanna have some alone time here, make sure you come early in the morning or right before the closing time. Just make sure you leave in time, so you do not annoy the owners.

#5 Here You Can Pet Cats

A very lovely aspect of this bookstore is the owner’s cats. They are constantly strolling around, moving their hips from left to right on top of the piles of books throughout the bookstore.

If I am not mistaken, there are five in total. They stay in the bookstore the whole day, but depending on when you come, they might be taking a nap, so you might not be able to see all of them at the same time. Either way, they make visiting the bookstore a much cozier experience.

Book Recommendations

The books shown above are close to the entrance, laying on the gondola that rests inside the bookstore. They all come from the publisher Edizioni Helvetia and offer a very easy read for beginners in Italian, while at the same time telling very curious stories reflecting the history of Venice.

Claudio Dell’Orso – Venezia Arcana
This book is for those eager to learn about what Venice has that is most unusual: the evocation of the devil by the courtesan Veronica Franco with the King of France, Edgar Allan Poe’s black agenda found by Baron Corvo, the head that screams in Lista dei Bari, the young Stalin at the island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni, deposits of human bones in the lagoon islands, the mysterious fall of boulders in Campo San Boldo, haunted houses and UFO sightings.

Espedita Grandesso – Fiol d’un can!
Although Venice has a very particular condition, being on the water, the city is not rid of animals. This book tells 17 tales of animals that left their mark on the city’s history: old restaurants perpetually keeping an eye on by dogs ready to take the launch of a bite and run away, the corroded semi-abandoned warehouses where cats hide and fight their eternal war against the brown rats, the dark artisan shops that give onto the streets where sneaky cats from their nook keep the owners company while they work, etc.

Ernesto Maria Sfriso – Serenissima
This book describes 56 portraits of Venetian women who represented the spirit of an age or a particular cultural climate with their way of being, starting from the distant foundation of the lagoon to the present day. Not only famous and widely described figures from historiography, such as the Queen of Cyprus Caterina Cornaro and the courtesan Veronica Franco, but also common people that are almost forgotten such as the rower Maria Boscolo, the embroiderers Lucrezia and Vittoria Torre, the impudaressa Elisabetta Lazzari or the tabacchina Maria Teresa Trevisan.

Espedita Grandesso – Fantasmi di Venezia
This book describes 17 damned legends illustrated by nineteenth-century prints and accompanied by a brief historical-artistic apparatus that orients the reader to their “crime scenes”. Examples of these legends are the remains of a mysterious skeleton, found in the church of Santo Stefano, the story of a man who pretends to be a beggar to earn alms and gives vent to an abominable vice, and the man in charge of delivering some precious and top-secret documents, stumbling upon the Austrian militia and confessing only at the hands of a not so holy abbot.

Best Bookstores in Prague: What & Where To Read

Something About Czech Literature

The first works of literature from the Czech Republic date to the 14th century. Since then, the country’s literature went through Classical, Reformation, Baroque and Enlightenment periods. After that, modern literature is mostly divided into the following epochs:

  • The National awakening (19th century)
  • The avant-garde of the interwar period (1918-39)
  • Communism and the Prague Spring (1948-90)
  • The Post-Communist Czech Republic (1992-present)

Before the 20th century, literature was mostly seen as a means to educate and serve the nation and spread Czech culture. After that, it became literature simply for the sake of art. The influence of French, German and Russian literature made the Czechs demanding of the cultural knowledge from their authors.

The Best Bookstores In Prague

Academia Bookstore

Location: Václavské náměstí 34 | On the Wenceslas Square
Opening: Mon-Fri 08:30 – 20:00, Sat 09:30 – 19:00, Sun 09:30 – 18:00
Website: academia.cz/

Academia is a leading publishing company in the Czech Republic. It was founded in 1953 originally as a publishing house of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences and has been named Academia since 1966.

The main bookstore is located right on Wenceslas Square, so it will not be difficult to spot. Here you can buy yourself a book and enjoy the reading from the balcony with an iconic view to one of the most beautiful squares in Prague.

Here you will find original scientific monographs and works by Czech scientists, as well as foreign classics in academic science, popular science, non-fiction, encyclopaedias, as well as quality fiction in the original Czech and in translation.

Academia is definitely the place for those trying to expand their knowledge horizon, independent of the field.

One reason why I love this bookstore is the fact that they have important works of Czech literature, sciences and art translated to English, making it one of my favorite places to find English books in Prague. This makes Academia the ideal place for exploring the culture of the Czech Republic right at its heart.

On the image above you can see the first book that I bought here, written by none other than Václav Havel, who tells of his dissidence during the communist occupation. An essential pick for those trying to understand recent Czech history.

Budget Books

Location: Lazarská 1 | Near Franz Kafka’s Head Monument
Opening: Mon-Fri 08:00 – 19:00, Sat 09:00 – 18:00, Sun 11:00 – 18:00
Website: levneknihy.cz/english-books/

For 20 years Budget Books have been supplying the Czech Republic with literary classics at an affordable price. This network of affordable bookstores started to operate on the Czech market in 1996.

There are many around Prague, but the easiest to find is definitely the one close to Franz Kafka’s Head. You will see their logo from far away, so you can just hop in and take your pick.

Here you will find classic books by none other than Fyodor Dostoevsky, Charles Dickens, James Joyce, Victor Hugo, etc. Apart from the obvious classics, you will also find among the bookshelves, books specialized in scientific literature, history, and philosophy. All of this makes Budget Books a great place to find English books in Prague at a good price.

The first book I bought here was The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, written by Oliver sacks, a renowned neurologist. Not much of a classic, it is still an essential read for those interested in the field of neurological disorders.

The book discusses not only deficits and excesses regarding brain function, but also phenomenological manifestations with reference to altered perceptions, and extraordinary qualities of mind found in people with intellectual disorders.

Spálená 53

Location: Spálená 110/53 | Near Café Louvre
Opening: Mon-Fri 08:30 – 18:30, Sat-Sun 10:00 – 17:00
Website: spalena53.cz/

Spálená 53 is not only a bookstore but an antiquity store as a whole. Here you will find new and second-hand books, LPs and vinyl, maps, graphic posters, postcards, etc.

After gathering great experience in the field, the owner Eva Michalkova founded her own publishing house named Aurora and opened her first bookstore in Prague’s Zizkov. Later on, a second-hand bookshop was added to it and the whole was further allocated to Spálená Street No. 53.

Here is the place for you to get your hands on rare pieces, especially regarding literature, and advance your knowledge in Czech history while holding part of it in your own hands. Although unique pieces, the books here are not as expensive as you might think.

Czech Book Suggestions

If you are coming to Prague (or if you are already here), I have a couple of book recommendations, in case you wish to visit one of the bookstores I mentioned above and dive into Czech literature.

Frank Kafka – The Trial
Josef K. is a regular man who is suddenly accused of a crime he has no recollection of having committed. The book then follows him through the absurdities of bureaucracy and the judicial system, showing the hopelessness and nightmarish reality of an individual being crushed by the State.

Jan Neruda – Prague Tales
This is the book for those willing to understand Czech characters and motifs. It tells short stories describing the mundane lives of the inhabitants of Prague’s Mala Strana (Little Quarter), who are humbled by poverty, debauchery, and infighting, yet remain warm and well-humored, despite how unfortunate their lives might end up being.

Milan Kundera – The Unbearable Lightness of Being
This book tells the story of two women, two men, a dog, and their lives in the 1968’s Prague Spring period of Czechoslovak history. Challenging Nietzsche’s concept of Eternal Recurrence (a mental exercise where you suppose your life repeats itself ad infinitum), The Unbearable Lightness of Being poses the paradoxical condition of life: lightness from the ease in which things happen, and heaviness for the consequences that decisions have.

Incredible Museums To Visit In Prague

Museum of Alchemists and Magicians

Location: Jánský vršek 8 | Near Prague Castle
Opening: Mon-Sun 10:00 – 20:00
Website: magisterkelley.com/

Located in a house at the Donkey by the Cradle (this weird name comes from a fresco on the building that used to display the birth of Jesus, but due to fading you can see only a donkey by the cradle now), the Museum of Alchemists and Magicians of Old Prague exhibits the story of alchemy in Prague inside the building that once belonged to illustrious alchemist Edward Kelley.

The main building has an astonishing recreation of a supposed ‘alchemic ritual’, where you can see Doctor Faustus being sucked up in the ceiling by the devil. Here you will buy tickets for the tours of the attic, that is where the fun starts.

After climbing the 60 steps of one of the oldest wooden staircases in Prague (designed by Kelley himself in the 16th century), you will get access to the laboratory of the famous alchemist.

The first room served as storage, library and waiting room for those who wish to visit the lab. Names such as Rudolf II, John Dee, and even William Shakespeare came to this place. The second room is a separate laboratory, where you can find the place where Kelley tried to create a homunculus, the furnaces which were used to try to create the philosopher’s stone, experimental animals, etc.

Museum of Ghosts and Legends

Location: Mostecká 18 | Near Charles Bridge
Opening: Mon-Sun 10:00 – 22:00
Website: muzeumpovesti.cz/en

Prague had a very turbulent history involving invasions, insurgencies, wars, etc. Out of this turbulence and death, many legends arose. They come in many ways: holy, unholy, headless, skeletal, filled with love, hatred, etc. The Prague Ghosts and Legends Museum is a living collection of these stories that surround the streets of Prague.

The Prague Ghosts and Legends Museum is divided into two main levels: the interactive ground floor and the underground basement.

On the interactive ground floor, you will see an exhibition of the main legends from the city, either coming out of the walls or in the shape of objects related to them. In case you want to read more about them, you can purchase a book containing their stories in the ticket office, or download their app.

In the underground basement, you will find the ghosts. Simulating medieval Prague, without cars and bright lights, you will experience how it must have been like to face one of these spirits while strolling across the city during the 16th century. Some you will see clearly, but others you will need some investigating to find.

Museum of Medieval Torture

Location: Křižovnické nám. 194/1 | Near Charles Bridge
Opening: Mon-Sun 10:00 – 22:00
Website: museumtorture.com/

The Museum of Medieval Torture displays over 80 of the most famous and important torture machines used by the courts during the Middle Ages. It serves as a rich historical and cultural reserve, preserving the haunting past behind the Czech Republic.

On the image above, you can see something called a scold’s bridle, used to hurt and humiliate people accused of being witches. This was actually the most softcore thing I found in this museum, so be aware that you will find a lot of suffering pumped up with the sounds of people screaming, moaning, and crying.

Even though this museum if not for the faint-hearted, it is definitely a must-see. Torture has been a common practice in medieval history and much can be learned from the people who both utilized and suffered from them.

Museum of Communism

Location: V Celnici 1031/4 | Near the Powder Tower
Opening: Mon-Sun 9:00 – 20:00
Website: muzeumkomunismu.cz/en/

The Czech Republic had a very troubled recent past when it comes to communism. Decades of censorship, persecution, and executions. To avoid past mistakes it is important to remember them, and this is the role of the Museum of Communism in Prague.

Housed in a space of nearly 1,500 square meters, the Museum of Communism provides visitors with an authentic feel of the communist era in Czechoslovakia, enhanced by the incorporation of short videos, posters, and artifacts.

The Museum of Communism shows the daily life, politics, history, sports, economics, education, art, propaganda in the media, the People’s Militias, the army, the secret police, censorship, and courts and other institutes of repression, including show trials and political labor camps during the Stalinist era.

Speculum Alchemiae

Location:  Haštalská 1 | Near the Spanish Synagogue
Opening: Mon-Wed 10:00 – 18:00
Website: alchemiae.cz/en

In the late Middle Ages and early Modernity, science and mysticism were one. Researches were trying to discover the secrets of nature, no matter if gravitation (harmony of the spheres) or the secret to eternal life. The Speculum Alchemiae is another great place to learn about the alchemist past of Prague.

During the reconstruction of one of the oldest historical buildings of Prague, one of the oldest alchemical laboratories in the region has been found. It was incredibly preserved, especially after the demolition of the Jewish quarter at the end of the 19th century.

It contains a main study room, normal to untrained eyes but hiding a secret passage to the underground laboratories. The underground rooms are many, containing furnaces for experimenting with different metals, laboratories for the production of different elixirs, etc.

Museum of Illusions

Location: Staroměstské nám. 480/24 | Near the Astronomical Clock
Opening: Mon-Sun 10:00 – 20:00
Website: iamprague.eu/en

The Illusion Art Museum of Prague (IAM Prague) is the Czech Republic’s first museum dedicated to illusion and trick art, located on Old Town Square, directly across from the iconic astronomical clock, locally known as Orloj. 

Here you will find illusion art in many different styles: some rooted deep in history, others modern and contemporary. The peak of the exhibition are anamorphic installations representing historical figures in unexpected ways, from metallurgical panting, trick art, spatial illusions, etc.

These works of art are not random, but rather from established and internationally-recognized artists such as Patrick Hughes and Patrik Proško. Apart from these famous artists, you can also find the work of smaller local artists, providing a truly unique experience.

Tower Museum

Location: Karlův most Praha 1 | One the Charles Bridge
Opening: Mon-Sun 10:00 – 18:00
Website: No Website

The tower on the Charles Bridge is the bucket-list of most tourists who visit Prague, but few know that there is something more than a view to it. If you pay close attention, after you cross the door, you have the possibility of not only going up to the tower, but also going underground.

Although not really a full museum, the exhibitions under the tower are definitely nice to see, especially if you already bought the ticket for climbing the tower to get a view of the Charles bridge.

It contains a video exhibition, telling the story of the construction of the Charles bridge, as well as many ‘archeological pieces’ found during the many reforms the bridge has gone under. You can find a lot of fun stuff there, the ones that most surprised me were some Brazilian credit cards.

Vaporetto On The Grand Canal: A Cheap Gondola Alternative

What A Vaporetto Is

To put it short, a Vaporetto (batèlo or vaporino for the locals) is a waterbus that functions as the main public transport vehicle within the city of Venice. They operate not only on the main island but also has connections to Murano, Burano, Giudecca, and Lido.

The Vaporetto is not a necessity when visiting Venice, as most of the city’s attractions are located on the main island. But if you want to make things quicker and also visit other amazing places that can be found in the other Venetian islands, getting a Vaporetto ticket is the way to go.

Vaporetto vs. Gondola

The first and most obvious thing to compare between the Gondolas and the Vaporetti is the price. While a single Vaporetto ride will cost you 7.5 EUR for up to 75 minutes, riding a Gondola will cost you between 80 and 120 EUR for half an hour, depending on the time of the day, the night being more expensive.

The other aspect we should take a look at is privacy. While in the Gondola you will be alone (or together with your significant other), the idea is that in the Vaporetto, given that it is a public means of transport, you will be in a crowded place. That is partially true, but if you know at which time to hop in, as well as which line to take, you will find yourself alone in the front seats, enjoying the best views in town.

Access To The Vaporetto

The first step for riding the Vaporetto is choosing your ticket. ACTV, the company that runs the Vaporetti, has many different types of tickets available, mostly time-based:

  • Single Ticket (75min) – 7.5 EUR
  • 1-Day Ticket (24h) – 20 EUR
  • 2-Day Ticket (48h) – 30 EUR
  • 3-Day Ticket (72h) – 40 EUR
  • 7-Day Ticket – 60 EUR

Apart from the main ticket, you can ride the Vaporetti at a discount or even for “free” when purchasing specific city cards such as the Rolling Venice or the City Pass. If you are visiting Venice for more than a day, I highly recommend getting the City pass, as it not only gives you unlimited access to the Vaporetti, but also a free pass to all the city’s civic museums, most of the churches and also the Doge’s Palace.

You can purchase your tickets online and get a print version in the machines near the Vaporetto stations, or simply buy your ticket at one of the Venezia Unica kiosks around town. Remember that before every trip, you need to validate your ticket/card on the machines right in front of the stations, this is mandatory and if not done will lead to very expensive fines.

The Best Vaporetto Route

When it comes to the best Vaporetto line to enjoy the sights Venice has to offer, my definite pick is:

Line 2: S. Zaccaria → P. Roma → San Marco (8:13→15:49 – Daily)

There are many different reasons for this choice: not only this line has many stops across the Grand Canal, but it also has very nice sits right in front of it. If you get it during working hours, and especially during the low season, you will be alone there enjoying the canal just for yourself.

Among the places that you will be able to go through with this line are the Giudecca island, San Tomà, the Accademia gallery, and of course San Marco. Apart from that, this line stops both in the Tronchetto Bus Station and in the Santa Lucia Train Station.

Line 2 at night will be slightly more limited when it comes to stops but is just as amazing. Also, by going at night, you will also have high chances of getting all front seats to yourself.

Best Restaurants In Venice (Italy): What & Where To Eat

Nothing better to experience the spirit of La Serenissima than to try the local food, made with fresh ingredients in the best restaurants in town! Here is my personal list of the best restaurants in Venice.

Venetian Cuisine

Unlike some people think, Venice does not survive only on fish. The city’s cuisine is really rich and varied, including many different types of pastries, grains, and meats. The idea originated from the fact that the city is rich in fresh fish, but in reality, it also acquires other fresh ingredients from nearby agriculture. To put it short, there are many foods in Venice which are of great quality, not only fish.

When it comes to restaurant formality, there used to be a distinction between a ristorante, trattoria, and osteria, but nowadays these terms have become blurred, as higher-level restaurants also adopted the name of trattoria and osteria.

What to eat in Venice

Eating in Venice is not s complicated or expensive as people think, at least if you are well-informed. Venice follows the meal structure that the rest of Italy uses, which is somehow very similar to the rest of the western world:

  • Colazione – The equivalent of Breakfast.
  • Spuntino – A light morning snack.
  • Pranzo – The equivalent of Lunch.
  • Merenda –  A light afternoon snack.
  • Cena – The equivalent of Dinner.

What can be slightly overwhelming is their festive meal structure. Of course, Venetians do not follow this structure at every meal, but on special occasions, it might happen. Either way, having a classical festive Venetian meal could be a fun activity when you are visiting Venice. You can try to follow the pattern below:

  • Aperitivo – It opens a meal, where at a standing gathering, drinks such as wine, prosecco, or spritz are served with little snacks such as olives, crisps, and cheese.
  • Antipasto – A slightly heavier starter including meat-based snacks such as salami, mortadella, and prosciutto or sandwich-like dishes such as panino and bruschetta.
  • Primo – The first course of the meal, usually including non-meat dishes, most often risotto or different sorts of pasta.
  • Secondo – The second course of the meal, including meat-based dishes such as steak, pork or fish. Usually served together with a Contorno (side dish), like a salad.
  • Dolce – The dessert, after the main courses, is usually served as a sweet treat such as Tiramisu or Panna Cotta.
  • Digestivo – As the name suggests, it helps with the digestion of a long and heavy meal. It comes in the form of a fruity alcoholic drink such as Grappa or Limoncello.

Note that the structure might vary from restaurant to restaurant. Some restaurants might not have a structure at all, so you will need to find places around your location to complete your meal structure.

Where to eat in Venice

Colazione & Merenda

Majer Giudecca

Location: Fondamenta Sant’Eufemia, 461 | Near Palanca
Opening: Mon-Sun 07:00 – 22:00
Reservation: Not Needed

Majer Giudecca is a refined and innovative restaurant with an open kitchen, specialized in grilled dishes. The place has forty seats divided between the inner hall and the external terrace overlooking the Giudecca Canal.

It is important to notice that you will not be able to get here on foot, as Majer is located on the Giudecca island. But the food here is definitely worth the Vaporetto trip, which will last less than two minutes. Also, there are plenty of things to see in Giudecca, so Majer can be your first stop after waking up.

Although Majer is known for its amazing Wagyu meat, a highly prized Japanese beef, I definitely love their sweet snacks. Whenever I go to Majer, its almost always early in the morning, so I can enjoy some muffins and an espresso (or a couple of them), while watching the canal.

Correr Café

Location: Piazza San Marco, 52 | Saint Mark’s Square
Opening: Mon-Sun 10:30 – 17:00
Reservation: Not Needed

Since 2013, you can have an amazing breakfast while overlooking the most spectacular view of Saint Mark’s Square, and that thanks to the café at the Correr Museum. Located on the first floor of the Royal Palace of Venice next to the bookshop and the ticket office, the cafeteria is open also to non-visitors of the museum.

With 135 square meters in size and furnishing inspired by the Imperial style, the Correr Café is the perfect place to meet friends before a walk downtown. Apart from the wonderful view, the Museum is at the heart of the city, and within walking distance of other beautiful things to see in Venice.

On a special note, every first and third Sunday of the month you can enjoy a lovely brunch with a selected seat with a view of Saint Mark’s Basilica.

Despite being located in Saint Mark’s Square, this place is not as expensive as you might think. Whenever I am here, I always order a freshly-pressed orange juice with a San Marco, which is a toasted Club Sandwich with bacon, egg, cheese, lettuce, and tomato.

Aperitivo & Antipasto

Café Noir

Location: Crosera San Pantalon 3805 | Dorsoduro
Opening: Mon-Fri 11:00 – 02:00, Sat-Sun 19:00 – 00:20
Reservation: Not Needed

Café Noir is a lovely and quiet place downtown near Ca’ Foscari University. It is mostly a meeting point for young people, but you will find all the demographics there. The reason is simple: great and tasty food for cheap, in a very relaxed environment.

The place is not enormous but is definitely cozy. After you make the order on the counter, you can either get a table or sit by the huge window to get a view of the little streets that lead there.

The Café is known for its variety of sandwiches, but I often go there for a light aperitivo, meaning two Spritz Veneziani and a bowl of nachos or chips. It never gets more expensive than 5 EUR, so you are in for a treat.

Bacarando In Corte dell’Orso

Location: San Marco, 5495 | Near the Rialto Bridge
Opening: Sun-Fri 12:00 – 00:00, Sat 12:00 – 01:30
Reservation: bacarando.com/

The Bacarando In Corte dell’Orso will a bit difficult to find, since it is located inside a little alley-maze near the Rialto bridge, but is definitely a hidden gem in Venice. The place brags of its huge collection of more than 700 varieties of spirits and 100 wine labels, as well as a menu of carefully created cocktails.

Not only known for snacks, the Bacarando also serves lunch and dinner in a lovely atmosphere on the upper floor. But that is not the main reason why everyone loves this place. They have the best Cicchetti I have ever eaten in my life, so they definitely deserve their name, as “bàcari” stands for a Cicchetti bar.

No need to say that Cicchetti and Spritz Veneziano are a must here. They are so tasty that you actually need to be careful not to eat too many. After all, this is only an entrance before the main course, and you still need to eat pasta and meat after this.

Primo & Secondo

Taverna San Trovaso

Location: Calle Contarini Corfù, 1016 | Near Zattere
Opening: Mon-Sun 12:00 – 14:45, 18:45 – 21:30
Reservation: tavernasantrovaso.it/en/

If you want to try traditional Venetian cuisine, Taverna San Trovaso is the place for you. Venetian cuisine stems from the creativity of mixing hinterland ingredients with the fish from the nearby sea, and this place is proud of having mastered cooking traditional local food and elevating it to art.

This tavern, although far away from the major attraction in the city, gets full pretty quickly after opening its doors. Do not let the name Taverna fool you, this is a relatively expensive place with high-quality food, so it is definitely not for the budget travelers.

My favorite thing to eat in this place is the scallops filled with shrimp risotto, covered with porcini mushrooms. Another thing I cannot emphasize enough is that you should get the wine of the house, as it is extremely tasty and harmonizes perfectly with the food you are eating. If you do not know which wine to ask for, the staff will be glad to help. They also speak many major European languages.

Taverna Al Remer

Location: Cannaregio, 5701 | On the other side of Rialto Market
Opening: Mon-Sun 12:00 – 23:30
Reservation: alremer.it/

Here is another hidden gem I found in Venice when I was studying there. It is honestly a bit difficult to find your way to Taverna Al Remer, as not only the path is a bit labyrinthic but also your GPS stops working when you get around two blocks close to it. No idea why. But once you are there, you will understand why it is so special.

If you are planning a romantic dinner, this is the place for you. Candle-lit environment, well-dressed and extremely polite staff, great food and wine, and a direct view to the Grand Canal from the outside. Just make sure you get a reservation because the place fills up really fast.

The reason I come here is their Secondo, as they have great seafood. My favorite dish from the place is the grilled prawns and shrimps, tastes amazing with a bit of olive oil and lemon, together with some quality white wine from the house.

Dolce & Digestivo

Al Timon Eno-Ostarie

Location: Fondamenta dei Ormesini, 2754 | Near the Jewish Museum
Opening: Mon-Sat 17:00 – 01:00, Sun 11:00 – 01:00
Reservation: altimon.it/

Al Timon is a great steakhouse at the heart of Cannaregio, the 16th-century Jewish Ghetto. This is the perfect location to escape the waves of tourists coming from the city center and enjoy traditional food in a place loved by locals.

They serve their wonderful steaks in decorated meat-boards, and in case you came just for snacks, during summer you can eat your Cicchetti and drink your wine on one of their boats outside on the canal.

Although their food is wonderful, I mostly come here for their Tiramisu and Panna Cotta. I have yet to taste dessert better than the ones they serve here. After the dessert you can, of course, have a drink to help with the digestion of your meal, I would suggest dry Grappa, as theirs is local and excellent.

Cioccolateria VizioVirtù

Location: Castello 5988 | Near the Rialto Bridge
Opening: Mon-Sun 10:00 – 19:00
Reservation: Not Needed

VizioVirtù is heaven for chocolate lovers. They not only own this lovely shop but also have their own chocolate factory where they create the most exquisite recipes to satisfy the most demanding palates.

The place offers chocolate workshops where you can cook truffles and mousses with them. You will learn how to temper chocolate and, of course, how to make drinking chocolate. In case you are out of time, you can simply show up and get a small lecture on chocolate history, as well as try the most important flavors.

Whenever I am around Rialto and ready for a quick bite of something sweet, I come here for their chocolate pie and some double/triple/quadruple espresso. You definitely need an energy boost when exploring Venice, so here is the place to get sugar and caffeine, both in a delicious form.

Doge’s Palace: Know Before You Go

The History behind the Doge’s Palace

Doge’s Palace General Information

The Doge’s Palace (in Italian: Palazzo Ducale), is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, composed of layers of building elements and ornamentation from its 14th and 15th century original foundations to the Renaissance and Mannerist adjunctions.

In 810, Doge Angelo Partecipazio moved the seat of government from the island of Malamocco to the current Rialto area, when it was decided that the Palazzo Ducale should be built. But no trace exists of that 9th century building. The current Palace dates back to the 10th and 11th centuries. Initially, it was probably an agglomeration of buildings used for different purposes and was then walled for protection.

Little did the first Doge to live in it know, but the Palace would then become a symbol of the massive intellectual, artistic and military power that the Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia would exercise not only on the Adriatic sea but in the whole of Europe.

Opening Hours

From April to October, the Doge’s Palace opens at 8:30 and closes at 21:00, with prolongated hours from Friday to Sunday, closing at 23:00. From November to March, the Palace opens at 8:30 and closes at 19:00 every day. Remember that the last admission is always half an hour before the current closing hour.

Buying Tickets

There are many different ways of getting access to the Doge’s Palace, the most popular is the St. Mark’s Square Museum ticket, which includes entrance to the Museo Correr, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, and the Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana.

Discounts are granted to children from 6 to 14 yeard old, students aged from 15 to 25 years old, holders of the Venice Rolling Card, and holders of the International Student Identity Card.

Free Admission is grated to Venetian citizens and residents: ICOM members, children aged from 0 to 5, disabled people with a helper, and tourist guides enabled in Italy accompanying groups or individual visitors.

You can find further information regarding prices and overall regulation on the official website of the Doge’s Palace.

Inside the Doge’s Palace

Courtyard & The Loggias

As you walk inside the palace through the Porta del Frumento, the oldest side of the building, you will find the Piazetta and the Renaissance wings on the two sides, with the end closed by the conjunction between the Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica, where the Doge’s chapel used to be. On the center of the courtyard, you will find two well-heads dating back from the 16th century.

One of the most amazing sights here is the Giants’ Staircase. Used only on formal occasions, this staircase is guarded by statues of Mars and Neptune, a symbol of Venice’s power both on land and sea.

After the Censors’ Staircase and the famous Gold Staircase, you will be on the Loggias. Two important plaques are to be found here: a Gothic lettering promising favors to those who give donations to the prisoners, and another celebrating the visit of French King Henri III to Venice. Here you have access to the upper floors, where various Government duties were carried on a daily basis.

Institutional Chambers

The Institutional Chambers housed the main organs of the political and judicial administrative functions of the Republic, envied by the major powers of Europe. Why? Not only they kept their democratic tradition for centuries, despite having no written constitution whatsoever, but they managed to maintain a prolongated inner peace and prosperity that no other place in the continent has seen.

As you walk across the many rooms, you will find the places where important institutional bodies met, such as the Great Council, the Senate, the Collegio, the Council of Ten, etc. In all of the rooms, the decoration was chosen and designed to indicate the role the bodies that met within them had in the Republic, as well as celebrate the virtues of the Venetian State.

Doge’s Apartments

The Doge’s Apartments were always located between the Rio della Canonica and the Golden Staircase, near the Basilica of Saint Mark where the Ducal Chapel used to be. In the late 15th century, the whole place burned down and was then rebuilt in Renaissance style. The rooms currently found there date back to this renovation.

Until the 17th century, the Doge’s Apartments were used for the Doge’s private life and affairs. Although prestigious, the place was not particularly large or luxurious. Prior to their elections, the Doges usually had a much larger house with more luxurious services than the ones offered by the Republic. Taking office was a clear message that the Doge is not an absolutist king, he is a servant of the people.

Museo dell’Opera

Throughout the centuries, the Doge’s Palace took many hits: fires, structural failures, infiltrations, and floodings. To fix these, many rebuilding projects took place. Since the Middle Ages, these restoration and maintenance activities were carried by an office called the Opera, or fabbriceria.

During the mid 19th century, the very survival of the building was questioned, due to a high degree of decay. To prevent collapsing, a major restoration project was started. The work involved rebuilding two facades and the columns belonging to the ground-floor arcade and the upper loggia, 42 in total were in such a bad state that they needed to be completely replaced by copies.

The problem is that these pieces that were removed were masterpieces of Venetian sculpture from the 14th and 15th centuries. You can’t just throw that out on the trash. For that reason, these works of art were kept in a new area of the Palace: the Museo della’Opera.

Armoury

The rooms of the Armoury contain an impressive historical collection of weapons from many different sources, with its main body being as old as the 14th century.

At the time of the Republic, the Armoury was under the control of the Council of Ten, and stocked weapons which needed to be readily available for the Palace’s guards. On special occasions, the guards were joined by the arsenalotti, an elite-squad of workers from the shipyards of the Arsenale.

The collection of weapons was partially dispersed after the fall of the Republic, but today it still comprises 2000 original pieces. These include incredible 15th and 16th-century suits of armour, swords, halberds, quivers, and crossbows. You will be able to notice that most of the equipment contains the inscription “CX“, which stands the Council of Ten.

Prisons

One of the most famous constructions from the Palace itself can be found here: the Bridge of Sighs. Lots of couples come to the outside of the Palace to take pictures together in front of this wonderful view, but in reality, the name of the building comes from the fact that prisoners would often sigh as they entered the prison, for that would be the last time they would see the beauty and freedom stemming from Venice. Not that romantic.

Here was the seat of the judiciary branch of the Republic, including the chambers of the magistrates known as the Notte al Criminal. The Doge’s Palace always contained prisons, but in the mid-16th century, a new structure was built on the other side of the canal to house larger and better-lit cells for prisoners. It was connected to the Doge’s Palace by the Bridge of Sighs and contained its own courtyard.

Doge’s Palace Tips & Tricks

Avoid The High Season

I believe there is no need to say that Venice often gets flooded not just by water but also by tourists. But just like the Acqua Alta (high tides), the tourist waves come seasonally.

If you come from October to April, you will have a much better experience visiting the Doge’s Palace. It’s safe to say that if you go early in the morning or late in the evening, you might even find yourself alone in the major chambers of the Palace. An experience like this would be impossible during the summer months.

Save A Little Money

I mentioned before that the most common way of getting access to the Palace is through the combined museum ticket. But there is an even cheaper way of getting inside: the Venezia Unica City Pass.

This pass allows not only for entrance to the Doge’s Palace but also to all other civic museums of the city, major churches as well as a free pass to the city’s transport system for a given period of time. All of this without needing to wait in line.